Dezeen Wire: democratic nations won't be able to host the Olympics in future due to increasing tensions between the public interests of democracies and the commercial interests of the games, according to a new report published by Dutch architecture, research and urbanism studio XML to coincide with the London 2012 Olympics.
Speaking to Dezeen about their new book, entitled Olympic Cities, Max Cohen de Lara and David Mulder of XML said it is harder for strong democracies to host the Games because the decision-making process takes longer and the public can be "uncomfortable with the idea of all the privileges" that organisers receive. "It could be possible that the Olympic Games will only take place in upcoming, non-democratic countries who simply have the centralised power and money to organise them, but that would very much distance the Olympic Games from how it started."
The authors say there is a cyclical nature to the Olympics, with their significance changing roughly every 20 years, and claim the Games are currently in a commercialised "franchise" stage after the near-bankruptcy of host city Montreal in 1976 forced the model to change.
However, they warn that the current status of the Games as a televised 'mega-event' should not provide strategies for future Olympic bids as we could be approaching another significant shift in attitude: "The business model of the Olympic Games is 50% based on income from television, and obviously what television is will very much change over the coming 20 years."
Commenting on the legacies left behind by the Olympics over the years, they said: "Inevitably, the enormous scale of the Olympics as mega-event forces any aspiring host city to think about its post-Games legacy. London's candidacy was built around the promise of uplifting East London. In reality, however, the dominant commercial interests of the IOC and its sponsors make you wonder really how social the Games even can be in its current form."
Their report was commissioned by the Dutch Goverment ahead of its bid for the 2028 Games.
Here's some more from XML:
Currently the Games – just like any other global brand – are a strongly centralised project in every respect. Its sources of revenue are closely linked to the current model of the mega-event and the model of the entertainment industry, in which control over images (eg. television) and exclusive space (eg. Disneyland) are decisive factors. The IOC requires that host countries implement far-reaching legislative measures to protect the interests of official IOC sponsors, and legal exemptions are expected in numerous other areas.
It is particularly difficult for democratic countries, such as the Netherlands, to harness sufficient support for these legal exemptions and the allocation of vast (public) funds to host the Olympic Games. The recent Italian withdrawal of Rome as applicant city for the Games of 2020 also shows that it is becoming difficult for European countries currently undergoing austerity measures to sustain the balance between large scale investments and maintaining public support for such a mega-event.
Without change, the IOC runs a risk that the Olympics can only be organised long-term by centrally controlled countries with impetuous economic growth. The question is how this will relate on a long-term to the ideals of Olympism and thus to the credibility of the Olympic Movement.
Update from XML: the report was commissioned by the Dutch Government and can be obtained through the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment. However, there is a (limited) amount of reports available which can be sent to other people that are interested. Those who are interested can send us an email (email@example.com) and we will send them a copy. We will ask them to pay for the shipping costs.